Formation of a network – components

A network is not just a number of computers connected by cables. Parts found in a typical network are:

Network software
This may be part of the operating system, or it can be software designed specifically to manage a network.

Connecting cables are usually used to connect devices on a network, although some networks make use of radio or microwaves to provide the link. Cables vary in both performance and cost.

Connectors are used to connect network cables to terminals or other devices.

Network cards

You will not be expected to be specific about any particular network hardware and software but you should know what each component does.

If a personal computer is to be used as a terminal in a network, a device called a network card must be built into it.

The network card looks like a small circuit board and slots into one of the connectors on the main circuit board (called the mother board) inside the computer.

Network cards have connectors on them for network cables.

The planning of the communication links between each of these devices (called nodes) must be carried out carefully. There are a number of different ways in which nodes are commonly linked. These ways are called topologies, and there are four common network topologies, called ring, line (bus), star and hierarchical.

You will be expected to know about the ways a network can be constructed. You should be able to draw a simple line diagram to represent each.

Typical hardware devices that may form part of a network are:

  • personal computers used as terminals
  • one or more central processing units acting as dedicated file servers or print servers
  • disk drives
  • scanners
  • printers
  • point-of-sale terminals (in a retail setting)

Think about the advantages of using a network in terms of hardware sharing and data sharing.

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